The academic portion of the fellowship is five weeks and includes a combination of classroom sessions, hands-on activities, and field trips.

Though most sessions are taught by PEC’s staff, a number of other professionals and community members lead discussions or serve as panelists. The classroom sessions provide background information on each of the main subjects. The hands-on activities give participants a chance to apply this knowledge and develop practical, real-world skills. The field trips further illustrate the topics presented in the classroom – sometimes showing sound environmental practices in action, or in other cases, showing the negative results of inaction, poor planning, or bad policy.

2023 Fellow holding a juvenile barn owl during a bird banding presentation. Credit Hugh Kenny/PEC

Learn from experts with our interdisciplinary lectures

Examples include:

  • History of Land Conservation
  • Introduction to Agencies & Land Management at the Local, State & Federal Level
  • Habitat and Stream Restoration
  • Public Access & Community Engagement
  • Land Use 101
  • Land Use, Transportation & Climate Change
  • Developer Panel Discussion
  • “Expanding Local Food Supply” panel discussion
  • Farming / Agriculture
  • Energy Policy in Virginia
  • Lobbying, Virginia League of Conservation Voters, and PEC at the State Level
  • Development 101 for Nonprofits: Where does the money come from?

Enjoy immersive field trips

Examples include:

  • The Piedmont Memorial Overlook
  • Gilberts Corner: Conservation & Property Management
  • The Farm at Sunnyside
  • Richmond, VA for a General Assembly House Tour
  • Charlottesville Downtown Mall Tour
  • Rapidan River Canoe Trip
  • Trout Restoration Projects
  • Walking Tour of Downtown Culpeper
  • Clarke County Planning Commission hearing
  • Camping and sunrise hike in Shenandoah National Park
Man paddles a canoe on the Rappahannock River
Fellows canoe on the Rappahannock River. Credit Hugh Kenny/PEC

Gain hands-on, practical experience

Examples include:

Mock Board of Supervisors hearing

The PEC land use staff guided the fellows through a simulated hearing while addressing a current land use issue from the region. Each fellow takes on the role of a land developer, concerned citizen, business owner, or a representative from an environmental advocacy group, the chamber of commerce, or the planning commission. PEC staff took on the role of the supervisors, deciding for or against the proposal based on the information presented.

Mock session at the Virginia House of Delegates

A full day was spent in Richmond learning how PEC works with state government to affect policy. They met with staff from the Virginia League of Conservation Voters and PEC’s chief lobbyist. They then spent the afternoon with the Deputy Clerk of Virginia’s House of Delegates, who described the legislative process and guided them through a mock session on the House floor. The fellows took on the role of elected officials and debated bills that were proposed in the most recent session.

Benthic macroinvertebrate stream sampling

The fellows got an up-close look at Thumb Run, a stream in the Rappahannock River Watershed where extensive work has been done to restore its once badly eroded banks and poor water quality. After a tour and discussion with the property owner, the fellows assessed the health of the stream by taking an inventory of the types and numbers of macroinvertebrates living on the streambed.

Fellows identify macroinvertebrates for a stream health assessment. Credit Hugh Kenny/PEC

Explore the conservation field

Over the years, fellows have been able to engage with numerous county governments, state agencies, local businesses, individuals and partner organizations:

African American Historical Association of Fauquier County
Blue Ridge PRISM
Bull Run Mountains Natural Area Preserve
Clarke County Government
Clean Virginia
Clifton Institute
Coalition for Smarter Growth
Culpeper County Government
Culpeper Renaissance Inc.
Fauquier County Government
Friends of the Rappahannock
John Marshall Soil and Water Conservation District
John Foote, attorney with Walsh, Colucci, Lubeley & Walsh, P.C.
Jones Nature Preserve
Land Trust Alliance
PATH Foundation
Potomac Vegetable Farm
Quail Forever
Shenandoah National Park
Smithsonian Biology Institute
Sunnyside Farm
The Germanna Foundation
The Land Lawyers
Virginia Conservation Network
Virginia Department of Forestry
Virginia Grassland Bird Initiative
Virginia League of Conservation Voters
Virginia Outdoors Foundation
Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry
Virginia United Land Trusts
Virginia Working Landscapes